LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of John Murray
Chap. XXIX.

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chap. XX.
Chap. XXI.
Chap. XXII.
Chap. XXIII.
Chap. XXIV.
Chap. XXV.
Chap. XXVI.
Chap. XXVII.
‣ Chap. XXIX.
Chap. XXX.
Chap. XXXI.
Chap. XXXII.
Chap. XXXIV.
Chap. XXXV.
Chap. XXXVI.
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
(  281  )

The public has long since made up its mind as to the merits of Colonel Napier’sHistory of the Peninsular War.’ It is a work which none but a soldier who had served through the war as he had done, and who, moreover, combined with practical experience a thorough knowledge of the science of war, could have written. A proof of this is afforded by the miserable failure of Southey’s History. Napier, with all his knowledge and abilities, was not free from the prejudices of party. He was a Whig; his friend Sir John Moore was the military hero of his heart, and it was long before he could persuade himself that Wellington would succeed where Moore had failed. He was inclined to do at least full justice to the French, and in particular to Marshal Soult, with whom he had formed a firm friendship while a prisoner in his hands. This led to Soult’s entrusting to him his confidential papers and despatches.

At the outset of his work he applied to the Duke of Wellington for his papers. This rather abrupt request took the Duke by surprise. The documents in his possession were so momentous, and the great part of them so confidential in their nature, that he felt it to be impossible to entrust them indiscriminately to any man living. He, however, promised Napier to put in his hands any specified paper or document he might ask
for, provided no confidence would be broken by its examination. He also offered to answer any question Napier might put to him, and with this object invited him to Strathfieldsaye, where the two Generals discussed many points connected with the campaign.

Though Murray was the publisher of Southey’s History of the War in Spain, Napier applied to him to undertake his work, and some correspondence ensued before an arrangement was definitely arrived at. In May 1827 we find Murray sending to Colonel Napier General Foy’s posthumous and fragmentary History of the War, which had been submitted to him for publication:—

Colonel W. Napier to John Murray.
Bromham, Wilts, December 5th, 1828.
Dear Sir,

My first volume is now nearly ready for the press, and as I think that in matters of business a plain straightforward course is best, I will at once say what I conceive to be the valuable part of my work, and leave you to make a proposition relative to publication of the single volume, reserving further discussion about the whole until the other volumes shall be in a more forward state.

The volume in question commences with the secret treaty of Fontainebleau concluded in 1809, and ends with the battle of Corunna. It will have an appendix of original documents, many of which are extremely interesting, and there will also be some plans of the battles. My authorities have been:—

1. All the original papers of Sir Hew Dalrymple.

2. Those of Sir John Moore.

3. King Joseph’s correspondence taken at the battle of Vittoria, and placed at my disposal by the Duke of Wellington. Among other papers are several notes and detailed instructions by Napoleon which throw a complete light upon his views and proceedings in the early part of the war.


4. Notes of conversations held with the Duke of Wellington for the especial purpose of connecting my account of his operations.

5. Notes of conversation with officers of high rank in the French, English, and Spanish services.

6. Original journals, and the most unreserved communications with Marshal Soult.

7. My own notes of affairs in which I have been present.

8. Journals of regimental officers of talent, and last but not least, copies taken by myself from the original muster rolls of the French army as they were transmitted to the Emperor.

Having thus distributed all my best wares in the bow window, I shall leave you to judge for yourself; and, as the diplomatists say, will be happy to treat upon a suitable basis. In the meantime,

I remain, your very obedient Servant,
W. Napier.

About a fortnight later (25th December, 1827), he again wrote that he would have the pleasure of putting a portion of his work into Mr. Murray’s hands in a few days; but that “it would be disagreeable to him to have it referred to Mr. Southey for an opinion.” Some negotiations ensued, in the course of which Mr. Murray offered 500 guineas for the volume. This proposal, however, was declined by Col. Napier, whereupon Murray sent the following letter:—

John Murray to Colonel Napier.
January 18th, 1828.
Dear Sir,

I believe you will find that it is not in my character to make any ungenerous offer for a valuable work, and I really thought at the time that the sum I proposed was liberal. But our friend, Dr. Somerville, has disclosed to me since so many important particulars of its probable public interest, that I am disposed to take my chance of a far greater circulation than I had before calculated upon, and I will therefore offer you a thousand guineas for the
copyright of the first volume of your work, with the option of taking the future volumes at the same sum per volume. I must print it of course in my own way. I assure you I do this with the highest estimation of your MS., created by the little which I have seen of it, and with a most earnest desire to improve my connection with its distinguished author, for whom I shall always retain the greatest respect. I beg you to believe that I am, dear sir,

Most faithfully yours,
John Murray.

A few days later, Colonel Napier wrote to Mr. Murray, accepting his offer of terms, and the volume was accordingly published in the course of 1828. Notwithstanding the beauty of its style and the grandeur of its descriptions, the book gave great offence by the severity of its criticism, and called forth a multitude of replies and animadversions. More than a dozen of these appeared in the shape of pamphlets bearing their author’s names, added to which the Quarterly Review, departing from the general rule, gave no less than four criticisms in succession. This innovation greatly disgusted the publisher, who regarded them as so much lead weighing down his Review, although they proceeded from the pen of Duke’s right-hand man, the Rt. Hon. Sir George Murray. They were unreadable and produced no effect. It is needless to add the Duke had nothing to do with them. Washington Irving received a copy of the volume at Seville, and wrote to Murray that General Giron (Marquis of Amarillas) stated that it was full of inaccuracies, especially when relating to Spain, the Spanish soldiers, and the Juntas; that it was too much founded on French accounts, and on estimates made by reconnoitring parties, which were totally at variance with the facts as existing in official papers.


Mr. Murray published no further volumes of the ‘History of the Peninsular War,’ but at his suggestion Colonel Napier brought out the second and succeeding volumes on his own account. In illustration of the loss which occurred to Mr. Murray in publishing the first volume of the history, the following letter may be given, as addressed to the editor of the Morning Chronicle:—

John Murray to the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.
Albemarle Street, February 13th, 1837.

My attention has been called to an article in your paper of the 14th of January, containing the following extract from Colonel Napier’s reply to the third article in the Quarterly Review, on his ‘History of the Peninsular War.’ *

Sir George Murray only has thrown obstacles in my way, and if I am rightly informed of the following circumstances, his opposition has not been confined to what I have stated above. Mr. Murray, the bookseller, purchased my first volume, with the right of refusal for the second volume. When the latter was nearly ready, a friend informed me that he did not think Murray would purchase, because he had heard him say that Sir George Murray had declared it was not ‘The Book.’ He did not point out any particular error, but it was not ‘The Book,’ meaning, doubtless, that his own production, when it appeared, would be ‘The Book.’ My friend’s prognostic was not false. I was offered just half of the sum given for the first volume. I declined it, and published on my own account, and certainly I have had no reason to regret that Mr. Bookseller Murray waited for ‘The Book,’ indeed, he has since told me very frankly that he had mistaken his own interest.”

In answer to the first part of this statement, I beg leave to say, that I had not, at the time to which Colonel Napier refers, the honour of any acquaintance with Sir George Murray, nor have I held any conversation or correspondence with him on the subject of Colonel Napier’s book, or of any other book on the Peninsular War. In reply to the second part of the statement, regarding the offer for Colonel Napier’s second volume of half the sum (viz. 500 guineas), that I gave for the first volume (namely, 1000 guineas), I

* The article appeared in No. 111 of Quarterly, April 1836.

have only to beg the favour of your insertion of the following letter, written by me to Colonel Napier, upon the occasion referred to.

Albemarle Street, May 13th, 1829.
My dear Sir,

Upon making up the account of the sale of the first volume of ‘The History of the War in the Peninsula’ I find that I am at this time minus £545 12s. At this loss I do by no means in the present instance repine, for I have derived much gratification from being the publisher of a work which is so intrinsically valuable, and which has been so generally admired, and it is some satisfaction to me to find by this result that my own proposal to you was perfectly just. I will not, however, venture to offer you a less sum for the second volume, but recommend that you should, in justice to yourself, apply to some other publishers; if you should obtain from them the sum which you are right in expecting, it will afford me great pleasure, and, if you do not, you will find me perfectly ready to negotiate; and in any case I shall continue to be, with the highest esteem, dear Sir,

Your obliged and faithful servant,
John Murray.

I am confident you will do me the justice to insert this letter, and have no doubt its contents will convince Colonel Napier that his recollection of the circumstances has been incomplete.

I have the honour to be, sir,
Your obedient humble Servant,
John Murray.

It may not be generally known that we owe to Colonel Napier’s work the publication of the Duke of Wellington’s immortal ‘Despatches.’ The Duke, upon principle, refused to read Napier’s work; not wishing, as he said, to quarrel with its author. But he was made sufficiently acquainted with the contents from friends who had perused it, and who, having made the campaigns with him, could point to praise and blame equally undeserved, to designs misunderstood and misrepresented, as well as to supercilious criticism and patronizing approval, which could not but be painful to the great commander. His nature was too noble to
resent this; but he resolved, in self-defence, to give the public the means of ascertaining the truth, by publishing all his most important and secret despatches, in order, he said, to give the world a correct account not only of what he did, but of what he intended to do.

Colonel Gurwood was appointed editor of the ‘Despatches,’ and, during their preparation, not a page escaped the Duke’s eye, or his own careful revision. Mr. Murray, who was honoured by being chosen as the publisher, compared this wonderful collection of documents to a watch: hitherto the general public had only seen in the successful and orderly development of his campaigns, as it were the hands moving over the dial without fault or failure, but now the Duke opened the works, and they were enabled to inspect the complicated machinery—the wheels within wheels—which had produced this admirable result. It is enough to state that in these despatches the whole truth relating to the Peninsular War is fully and elaborately set forth.

At the beginning of 1829 Croker consulted Murray on the subject of an annotated edition of ‘Boswell’s Johnson.’ Murray was greatly pleased with the idea of a new edition of the work by his laborious friend, and requested him to put his proposals in writing. Accordingly Croker, in a few days (9th January, 1829), sent Murray a long letter, stating the method he proposed to pursue in carrying out the work.*

Mr. Murray at once closed with Croker’s proposal, and in his answer wrote, “I shall be happy to give, as something in the way of remuneration, the sum of one thousand guineas.” Mr. Croker accepted the offer, and proceeded immediately with the work.

* The letter is printed in the ‘Croker Correspondence,’ ii. 24.

Mr. Croker to John Murray.
Dear Murray,

In reply to your letter of last night, which I received this morning, allow me to say that your pecuniary terms are offered in the same spirit of liberality (I had almost said of prodigality) which has marked all your transactions of that nature which have come to my knowledge. I, in return, am bound to do all I can to make my work not unworthy of such liberality. I think it will be better not to embarrass the pages with biographical notes, but to subjoin a biographical index, where each name will, once for all, tell its own story. I shall also endeavour to throw as much as I can into the text, and to make my notes as compendious as the nature of the explanation to be given will admit.

Yours, dear Murray, very sincerely,
J. W. Croker.

Mr. Murray communicated to Mr. Lockhart the arrangement he had made with Croker. His answer was:—

Mr. Lockhart to John Murray.
Jan. 19th, 1829.

“I am heartily rejoiced that this ‘Johnson,’ of which we had so often talked, is in such hands at whatever cost. Pray ask Croker whether Boswell’s account of the Hebridean Tour ought not to be melted into the book. Sir Walter has many MS. annotations in his ‘Boswell,’ both ‘Life’ and ‘Tour,’ and will, I am sure, give them with hearty good will. . . . He will write down all that he has heard about Johnson when in Scotland; and, in particular, about the amusing intercourse between him and Lord Auchinleck—Boswell’s father—if Croker considers it worth his while.”

Sir Walter Scott’s offer of information,* to a certain extent, delayed Croker’s progress with the work. He wrote to Mr. Murray (17th Nov. 1829):—“The reference to Sir Walter Scott delays us a little as to the revises,

* Sir Walter’s Letter to Croker on the subject will be found in the ‘Croker Correspondence,’ ii. 28.

but his name is well worth the delay. My share of the next volume (the 2nd) is quite done; and I could complete the other two in a fortnight.”

While the work was passing through the press Lockhart again wrote:—

Mr. Lockhart to John Murray.

“I am reading the new ‘Boswell’ with great pleasure, though, I think, the editor is often wrong. A prodigious flood of light is thrown on the book assuredly; and the incorporation of the ‘Tour’ is a great advantage. Now, do have a really good Index. That to the former edition I have continually found inadequate and faulty. The book is a dictionary of wisdom and wit, and one should know exactly where to find the dictum magistri. Many of Croker’s own remarks and little disquisitions will also be hereafter among the choicest of quotabilia.”

Croker carried out the work with great industry and vigour, and it appeared in 1831. It contained numerous additions, notes, explanations, and memoranda, and as the first attempt to explain the difficulties and enigmas which lapse of time had created, it may not unfairly be said to have been admirably edited; and though Macaulay, according to his own account, “smashed” it in the Edinburgh,* some fifty thousand of the ‘Life’ have been sold.

It has been the fashion with certain recent editors of ‘Boswell’s Johnson’ to depreciate Croker’s edition; but to any one who has taken the pains to make himself familiar with that work, and to study the vast amount of information there collected, such criticism cannot but appear most ungenerous. Croker was acquainted with, or

* The correspondence on the subject, and the criticism on the work by Macaulay, will be found in the ‘Croker Correspondence,’ vol. ii. PP- 24-49.

sought out, all the distinguished survivors of
Dr. Johnson’s own generation, and by his indefatigable efforts was enabled to add to the results of his own literary research, oral traditions and personal reminiscences, which but for him would have been irrevocably lost.

The additions of subsequent editors are but of trifling value compared with the information collected by Mr. Croker, and one of his successors at least has not hesitated slightly to transpose or alter many of Mr. Croker’s notes, and mark them as his own.

Mrs. Shelley, widow of the poet, on receiving a present of Croker’s ‘Boswell,’ from Mr. Murray, said:—

Mrs. Shelley to John Murray.

“I have read ‘Boswell’s Journal’ ten times: I hope to read it many more. It is the most amusing book in the world. Besides that, I do love the kind-hearted, wise, and gentle Bear, and think him as lovable and kind a friend as a profound philosopher. I do not see, in your list of authors whose anecdotes are extracted, the name of Mrs. D’Arblay; her account of Dr. Johnson, Mrs. Thrale, &c., in her ‘Memoirs of Dr. Burney,’ are highly interesting and valuable.”

Among the various other books published by Mr. Murray between 1827 and 1830, may be mentioned Captain Franklin’sNarrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea, 1825-7.’ When the manuscript of this work was referred to Mr. Barrow, his opinion was that it was “a very dull book. Clapperton, I think, will make you amends, but I am obliged to dish him and trim him as much as I dare.” Notwithstanding the unfavourable opinion of Mr. Barrow, Franklin’s manuscript was accepted by Mr. Murray, for £1200, and was at once sent to press.

Crofton Croker, a cousin of John Wilson, author of the
Irish Fairy Legends,’ was described by Sir Walter Scott as being “as little as a dwarf, as keen-eyed as a hawk, and of easy, prepossessing manners, something like Tom Moore.” His first series of the ‘Fairy Legends’ brought him £80; but the demand for them was so considerable, that when the second series was ready for the press, we find Mr. Murray writing to him:—

John Murray to Mr. Crofton Croker.
February 12th, 1827.
My Dear Crofton,

Thou art, by far, too good a fellow to be quarrelled with; and, therefore, sans mot, I will do as you propose—give you £300 for the copyright of the first and two new volumes of the ‘Irish Fairy Legends,’ half on the day of publication (is this as you mean or wish?), and the other half by note at six months from the said day of publication. I really long to see you; but pray believe that I am always,

My dear friend, most sincerely yours,
John Murray.

Mr. Henry Taylor submitted his play of ‘Isaac Comnenus,’—his first work—to Mr. Murray, in February 1827. Lockhart was consulted, and, after perusing the play, he wrote to Mr. Murray:—

Mr. Lockhart to John Murray.

“There can be no sort of doubt that this play is every-way worthy of coming out from Albemarle Street. That the author might greatly improve it by shortening its dialogue often, and, once at least, leaving out a scene, and by dramatizing the scene at the Synod, instead of narrating it, I think sufficiently clear: but, probably, the author has followed his own course, upon deliberation, in all these matters. I am of opinion, certainly, that no poem has been lately published of anything like the power or promise of this.”


Lockhart’s suggestion was submitted to Mr. Taylor, who gratefully acknowledged his criticism, and proceeded to amend his play. He wrote to Mr. Murray:—

Mr. Taylor to John Murray.
February 22nd, 1827.
My dear Sir,

I thank you for your note; and have much pleasure in acknowledging the liberality shown in your modification of my proposal. With regard to the scene at the Synod: though it is more than three years since I wrote that scene, I recollect being conscious, at the time, that it was un-dramatically managed, and wishing to manage it as your friend has suggested I thought then I could not do it, but, perhaps, I may be able to do it now.

Mr. Taylor made a very unusual request. He proposed to divide the loss on his drama with the publisher! He wrote to Mr. Murray:—

“I have been pretty well convinced, for some time past, that my book will never sell, and, under these circumstances, I cannot think it proper that you should be the sole sufferer. Whenever, therefore, you are of opinion that the book has had a fair trial, I beg you to understand that I shall be ready to divide the loss equally with you, that being, I conceive, the just arrangement in the case.”

Though Mr. Lockhart gave an interesting review of ‘Isaac Comnenus,’ in the Quarterly, it still hung fire, and did not sell. A few years later, however, Henry Taylor showed what he could do, as a poet, by his ‘Philip van Artevelde,’ which raised his reputation to the highest point. Moore, after the publication of this drama, wrote in his ‘Diary’:—” I breakfasted in the morning at Rogers’s, to meet the new poet, Mr. Taylor, author of ‘Philip van Artevelde’: our company, besides, being Sydney Smith and Southey. ‘Van Artevelde’ is a tall, handsome young fellow. Conversation chiefly about the profits booksellers
make of us scribblers. I remember
Peter Pindar saying, one of the few times I ever met him, that the booksellers drank their wine in the manner of the heroes in the hall of Odin, out of authors’ skulls.” This was a sharp saying; but Rogers, if he had chosen to relate his own experiences when he negotiated with Mr. Murray about the sale of Crabbe’s works, and the result of that negociation, might have proved that the rule was not of universal application.

Mrs. Graham, who by this time had become Mrs. Callcott, after her return from Rio de Janeiro, where she had been companion and governess to the Princesses of Brazil, again devoted herself to literary work. Mr. Murray put into her hands, for the purpose of correcting, and in a great measure re-writing, Lord Byron’s ‘Voyage of the Blonde to the Sandwich Islands.’ Although Mr. Murray had sent her £100 for her work, he afterwards added something more, against which she protested in the following words:—

Mrs. Callcott to John Murray.
February 20th, 1827.

“Thank you many thousand times more for thinking of me so kindly than for the value of the bill. One thing I doubt about. I considered myself already paid for the Blonde, and do not understand how, all things considered, you can give me any more for it. Besides, there are so many teasing you about it, that I feel uneasy at receiving more. So, unless you can show me good cause for taking more, I won’t use the said bill, or receive anything beyond the £100 you have already given me. . . . I will take care that the work shall be as well done as I can make it, although thus paid when only half done. My best love to Mrs. Murray and your girls. Mr. Callcott joins me in all manner of good wishes to you. In two hours I shall no longer be Maria Graham, but under any name your grateful and sincere friend.”


Dr. Paris had a curious correspondence with Mr. Murray in 1829. He had published an elementary work, called ‘Philosophy in Sport made Science in Earnest,’ anonymously, lest it should damage his professional position; for there are some persons who think that a man who writes a book, and still more one who writes a poem, is good for nothing in the way of professional business. Dr. Paris’s book, however, sold remarkably well, and he then consulted Mr. Murray as to a second edition. “You would be very much amazed,” he said, “as to the various opinions I have received upon the subject. The Novelist is for getting rid of the Philosophy, and the Philosopher is anxious to exclude the Novel,—so that, if I were to follow the advice given, I should be in the situation of the husband with a young and old wife—the one pulling out all the grey, and the other all the brown hairs; and all that would be left of the work would be its pasteboard covers.” A new edition was, however, published, and it long continued to be a popular book with young people, eager for the first glimmerings of science.

A letter from Mr. Croker to Murray, respecting the Letters of Horace Walpole to Mr. Mason, which were published some years later, is worth recording:—

Mr. Croker to John Murray.
May 7th, 1828.
Dear Murray,

I return, having read through, the first volume of ‘Horace Walpole’s Letters to Mr. Mason.’ Two of these letters establish, by direct evidence, what the world had all along suspected, that the ‘Heroic Epistle’ and the ‘Postscript’ were written by Mason. They also confute Mr. Pilkington’s notion that Walpole had a considerable share in the composition of the lively Satires, but they leave undecided
my suspicion that Walpole furnished many of the ideas and facts, though Mason supplied all the poetry.

This is the only point of novelty, I had almost said of interest, which we find in these letters. They are the least amusing of Walpole’s. The reason is that he and Mason had at this time no common acquaintance, and hardly any common topic, but Mason’s ‘Life of Gray.’ So that the chit-chat of Society, and the strings of proper names, all set in anecdotes, which adorn his other letters have not a place in these. I dare say the subsequent correspondence improves, but even this volume is very well worthy of the press. There are some particulars about Gray which are still interesting in Walpole’s way of telling them, though Mason has given them to the public in his own way.

I think it a pity that there is not a general edition of Walpole’s letters, with copious notes. Miss Berry could, and I think ought to, do this honour to the memory of her old friend. His letters, I am satisfied, will be the amusement of posterity, as Madame de Sévigné’s are; but a great deal of the wit will be lost, and the whole will become obscure if notes are not (before it is too late) added to explain his allusions, many of which are already dark even to me—a kind of contemporary, for I was fifteen years old when he died.

Yours faithfully,
J. W. Croker.

‘The Family Library’ has already been mentioned. Mr. Murray had long contemplated a serial publication, by means of which good literature and copyright works might be rendered cheaper and more accessible to a wide circle of readers than they had hitherto been. We have already seen his correspondence with Mr. Constable on the subject in 1825, when the Edinburgh publisher was about to bring out his Miscellany.

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge was established in 1828, with Henry Brougham as Chairman. Mr. Murray subscribed £10 to this Society, and agreed to publish their ‘Library of Entertaining Knowledge.’
Shortly afterwards, however, he withdrew from this undertaking, which was transferred to
Mr. Knight, and reverted to his own proposed publication of cheap works.

The first volume of ‘The Family Library’ appeared in April 1829. Murray sent a copy to Charles Knight, who returned him the first volume of the ‘Library of Entertaining Knowledge.’

Mr. Charles Knight to John Murray.

“We each launch our vessels on the same day, and I most earnestly hope that both will succeed, for good must come of that success. We have plenty of sea-room and need never run foul of each other. My belief is that, in a very few years, scarcely any other description of books will be published, and in that case we that are first in the field may hope to win the race.”

Mr. Murray’s intention was to include in the Library works on a variety of subjects, including History, Biography, Voyages and Travels, Natural History, Science, and general literature. They were to be written by the best known authors of the day—Sir Walter Scott, Southey, Milman, Lockhart, Washington Irving, Barrow, Allan Cunningham, Dr. Brewster, Captain Head, G. R. Gleig, Palgrave, and others. The collection was headed by an admirable ‘Life of Napoleon,’ by J. G. Lockhart, partly condensed from Scott’sLife of Napoleon Bonaparte,’ and illustrated by George Cruikshank. When Lockhart was first invited to undertake this biography he consulted Sir Walter Scott as to the propriety of his doing so. Sir Walter replied:—

Sir. W. Scott to Mr. Lockhart.
Oct. 30th, 1828.

“Your scruples about doing an epitome of the ‘Life of Boney’ for the Family Library that is to be, are a great
deal over delicate. My book in nine thick volumes can never fill the place which our friend
Murray wants you to fill, and which if you don’t some one else will right soon. Moreover, you took much pains in helping me when I was beginning my task, and I afterwards greatly regretted that Constable had no means of remunerating you, as no doubt he intended when you were giving him so much good advice in laying down his grand plans about the Miscellany. By all means do what the Emperor* asks. He is what the Emperor Napoleon was not, much a gentleman, and knowing our footing in all things, would not have proposed anything that ought to have excited scruples on your side.”†

The book met with a warm reception from the public, and went through many editions. The ‘Life of Alexander the Great,’ by the Rev. J. Williams, Rector of the Academy, Edinburgh, was followed by Allan Cunningham’sLives of the Artists,’ in six volumes, which is probably the best work Cunningham ever produced. In the preface to the last volume, after thanking others for their assistance, he wrote:—

“I have incurred obligation to many friends during the course of the work, but to none so much as to Mr. Lockhart who not only suggested the undertaking, but, when in town, has been so kind as to help me in its progress, often pruning what was redundant, and bringing light to what was obscure.”

When the first volumes appeared, Mr. Murray sent a copy of them to his friend Sharon Turner.

Mr. Sharon Turner to John Murray.

“I am quite happy that your ‘Family Library’ succeeds so well; not only for your own sake, but because the

* From the time of his removal to Albemarle Street, Mr. Murray was universally known among “the Trade” as “The Emperor of the West.”

Lockhart’sLife of Scott.’

success is evidence of the soundness of the British heart. I was but this very morning thinking how much good you will do by it, and how much the public have really been indebted to you. I am one of those who know that the
Quarterly Review was entirely your own conception and plan. I need not say how much that has benefited the public mind. Your ‘Family Library’ is composed on the right moral principles, and as far as it has gone, inculcates the right and useful feelings. My idea this morning at my breakfast, as I looked over the list of your eighteen intended publications in this sense was, that it would be an admirable counteraction on the minds of youth to those evil or useless publications which I perceive to be soliciting them from several other quarters. It will make valuable knowledge, and the better sentiments popular, and I said to myself, Murray may always feel, when he recollects his Quarterly and ‘Family Library’ that he has not lived uselessly to Mankind.”

The next work in ‘The Family Library’ was the Rev. H. H. Milman’sHistory of the Jews,’ in three vols., which occasioned much adverse criticism and controversy to Milman himself, who was regarded by some orthodox Churchmen as a man of heretical views. It is difficult for us who live in such different times to understand or account for the tempest of disapprobation with which a work, which now appears so innocent, was greeted, or the obloquy with which its author was assailed. The ‘History of the Jews’ was pronounced unsound; it was alleged that the miracles had been too summarily disposed of; Abraham was referred to as an Arab sheik, and Jewish history was too sacred to be submitted to the laws of ordinary investigation. Hence Milman was preached against, from Sunday to Sunday, from the University and other pulpits, in the most unmeasured language, as one of the most dangerous and pernicious of writers. Even Mr. Sharon Turner expostulated with Mr. Murray as to the publication of the book. He said
he had seen it in the window of
Carlisle, the infidel bookseller, “as if he thought it suited his purpose.” Turner went on to say that he regretted that the author shrank from the Miracles and the Prophecies, and that Milman had got his ideas from the German semi-theology.

Mr. Sharon Turner to John Murray.

“There is no middle way between truth and falsehood. Revelation either is revelation, or it is not. It is to be believed if true, and rejected if false. All revelation must be supernatural, and therefore miraculous. A revelation without miracle is to my mind an impossibility. The absence of miracles is a demonstration that the Pretender is an impostor; for how can the Deity communicate His will to man but by supernatural means. It was consistent in Hume to deny miracles, because he was an atheist; and if atheism be truth, there certainly can be no miracles, because there would be no Divine power to produce them. But as atheism is a false opinion, and as a Creating Deity exists, miracles are always possible, and are the natural and necessary companions of His will, because that being an addition to ordinary nature must be what is beyond ordinary nature, and therefore supernatural.”

Mr. Murray sent Sharon Turner’s expostulation to Mr. Milman, who was then engaged with the third volume, and on sending it to Mr. Murray for press, he wrote:—

The Rev. H. H. Milman to John Murray.
Reading, Feb. 1830.

“I think the sooner it is out the better; not that it will satisfy the fanatics, but it will I think remove the scruples of all sensible men. I return Mr. Sharon Turner’s letter. For his character I have the highest respect, but should have valued his opinion on this subject more highly some twenty years ago. His letter, as indeed his later works, savour strongly of the ‘Homilies of the Good Archbishop of Granada.’ Upon his principle, we ought to believe every miracle of every volume of the ‘Lives of the Saints.’
The often-repeated charge of following the Germans is rank nonsense. Except in one passage, where I have given different opinions, and theirs among the rest, there is not one explanation of a miracle borrowed from a German divine. I have used them only for other purposes. I will do nothing rashly, but if I am driven to it, I will show them, not whence I have derived my notion of the miracles, but where precisely the same explanations are to be found—in
Bishop Mant and Dr. D’Oyly’sBible’—and if I am forced, I will print in parallel columns.

“‘Family Library’—‘Family Bible.’ There is but one miracle in which we do not agree, and in that I have only stated opinions, one of which is that of Grotius, and have given none of my own. . . . As for Carlisle’s window, the Record may be thanked for that. As tending to keep up the clamour I regret it; as anxious for the extension of sound religion, and confident of the effect of my book on every unbigoted mind, I only wish all Carlisle’s customers would read it. A noble lord once wrote to the bishop of a certain diocese to complain that a baronet, who lived in the same parish, brought his mistress to church, which sorely shocked his regular family. The bishop gravely answered, that he was very glad to hear that Sir —— brought his naughty lady to church, and hoped that she would profit by what she heard there, and amend her ways. So say I of Carlisle’s customers.”

29th March, 1830.

“I have thought it as well both for my own satisfaction, as well as yours, to draw out the parallel between my miracles and those of the ‘Family Bible.’ It would I think be worth while to set them up on a slip, but by no means to publish without further consideration, as such a step might wound the feelings of those with whom I would stand well. I have received, circuitously, an opinion to which I attach much weight, that I should answer Faussett.* I am throwing a few thoughts together in order to be prepared, though I am by no means convinced

* Among those who publicly condemned the ‘History of the Jews’ were Dr. Godfrey Faussett, Canon of Christ Church, Margaret Professor of Divinity, Oxford, in a sermon preached in 1830, and afterwards published; as well as the Rev. J. J. Blunt, in his Hulsean Lectures for 1832.

of the wisdom of the step. I should be glad to know what my friends think on the subject, particularly men like
Hallam. I will write however by to-night’s post to Lockhart on this and on several other points. He is still desirous that I should undertake the ‘History of Christianity.’ What say you? Are you willing to engage? I am weary to death of the Jews, I almost wish they were with the Egyptians at the bottom of the Red Sea.

In the third volume of ‘The History of the Jews,’ Mr. Milman took the opportunity of introducing in the preface a reply to his critics The following letter is interesting as indicating what the Jews themselves thought of the history.

Mr. Magnus to John Murray.
March 17th, 1834.

Will you have the goodness to inform me of the Christian name of the Rev. Mr. Milman, and the correct manner of spelling his name; as a subscription is about to be opened by individuals of the Jewish nation for the purpose of presenting him with a piece of plate for the liberal manner in which he has written their history.

The piece of plate was duly subscribed for and presented, with every demonstration of acknowledgment and thanks.

Mr. Milman’sHistory of Christianity,’ was not published until 1840; and it was pronounced to be an able, learned, and profound work. In short, Milman’s Histories have long since taken their place among English Classics, and continue in great demand to the present day. His ‘History of the Jews’ did not prevent his preferment, as he was promoted from the vicarage of St. Mary’s, Reading, to the rectorship of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, and a canonry in the Collegiate Church of St. Peter; after which, in 1849, he was made Dean of St. Paul’s.

Captain Head took much pains in preparing his ‘Life of
Bruce,’ the African traveller. Although he was guided by Bruce’s own journal, he desired to make the book original.

Captain Head to John Murray.

“I have had a tough job, but the heaviest part is now over. In going through the volume, all Bruce’s best descriptions are given in his own words. The rest of the narrative, which is very carelessly written, I have condensed, using Bruce’s words as much as possible. I have left out all his dark histories and abstruse theories. Such an indefatigable devil never existed. Joseph Hume is nothing to him.”

By the assistance of Mr. Lockhart, Head obtained an introduction to the Foreign Office, where he found some important information. He again wrote to Mr. Murray:—

Captain Head to John Murray.
June 14th, 1830.
My dear Sir,

Since I last saw you I have been for some days at the Foreign Office, where they gave me all Bruce’s letters from Algiers; and I was surprised to find that those published by Murray* are not copies of the letters which reached the Foreign Office, but composed afterwards apparently from memory or notes! I therefore copied what I wanted from the letters themselves. The job you have given me is indeed a much more difficult one than I believe you had any idea of. I have been jogging very hard and constantly; but I am sorry to say that I find the subject growing on my hands. I am so very averse to a long-winded story, or a big book, that I assure you I had every wish, and have made many endeavours, to bring the subject within the dimensions of your original proposal (which I shall be perfectly willing still to execute), but on mature reflection, for your interest as well as my own reputation, I am now of opinion that you should decidedly determine on having

* ‘Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile.’ By James Bruce. Edited, with a Life of Bruce, by Alexander Murray. 7 vols. 1805.

a second volume, for in books, as well as in steam, condensation may be carried too far.

The book was however condensed, and published in one volume, according to the original arrangement. Mr. Barrow, after completing his ‘Mutiny of the Bounty ,’ sent in the MSS. to Mr. Murray, who forwarded to him 300 guineas for his work. “It is too much,” said Barrow, “and it is in accordance with your usual liberality. You must therefore let me send you back the odd £l5.” And Barrow’s cheque for £15 was enclosed.

When the forty-seven volumes of ‘The Family Library’ had been completed, the whole series and the remaining stock were handed over to Tegg & Co. ‘The Life of Peterborough,’ by Sir Walter Scott, and ‘The Life of Wolfe,’ by Robert Southey, were never published.

In the summer of 1829, Mr. Murray with his family made a tour in the West of England and in Wales, and the following account of a visit to the survivor of the Ladies of Llangollen will form an interesting conclusion to this chapter:—

John Murray to John Murray, junior.
Corwen, August 24th, 1829.

“I am also travelling in a part of Europe very little known to the English, I mean their own country. I have been perfectly astonished, and perfectly filled with admiration and delight, at the richness, splendour, and magnificence of the soil and scenery which I have passed through on my way from Chepstow, through Herefordshire (a most splendid county, scarcely known and never visited), through Llangollen to this place, and I cannot refrain from thinking of the thousands of the wealthy, noble, and accomplished of this nation who, after having visited almost every other part of this world, have at length passed into the world to come, without knowing anything of their own country.


“We had a great treat yesterday, and the day previous, in being invited to introduce ourselves to the celebrated Miss Ponsonby, of whom you must have heard as becoming early tired of fashionable life, and having withdrawn, accompanied by a kindred friend, Lady Eleanor Butler, to a delightful and at that period unfrequented spot, a quarter of a mile from Llangollen, overhanging the rapid and beautiful river Dee. The latter lady died there a few months ago at the age of 91, after having lived with Miss Pensonby in the same cottage upwards of fifty years It is very singular that the ladies intending to retire from the world, absolutely brought all the world to visit them, for after a few years of seclusion their strange story was the universal subject of conversation, and there has been no person of rank, talent, and importance in any way who did not procure introductions to them. All that was passing in the world they had fresh as it arose, and in four hours’ conversation with Miss Ponsonby one day, when we were alone, and during three the next, when Mrs. M. and my daughters were with me, I found that she knew everybody and everything, and was at the age of 80, or nearly so, a most inexhaustible fund of entertaining instruction and lively communication. The cottage is remarkable for the taste of its appropriate fitting up with ancient oak, presented by different friends, from old castles and monasteries, &c., none of it of less antiquity than 1200 years. She declared to me that during the whole fifty years she never knew a moment that hung heavy upon her, and no sorrows but from the loss of friends.”